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So, I made the mistake of asking a random guy for a spot and letting him do a lift off for me. While I've never had any issues with this technique before, this guy clearly had no idea how to liftoff. He pulled it super high and I lost tightness, then he dropped it over my belly instead of my chest, then the bar just dropped and my shoulder made a popping sound and that was it for this workout. This is clearly my fault because I let someone spot me without establishing safety rules.

Now that I'm out with a strained shoulder, I am wondering what is a safety checklist if you're asking for a spot?

  • What exercise did he spot you on? - Edit, rereading it was the first part of a bench-press. – Gunge Jan 26 '17 at 13:31
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I've never had this problem, but I definitely recognize that it IS a problem.

I think the best solution is for you to ask someone who is clearly more experienced. It might seem shallow of me to say, but I find it's very easy to figure out who is who in that regard.

If you DO end up having to ask someone who might be inexperienced, I think you do in fact need to instruct them. Now, since our bench setup routine might be different, you might have to make your own, but here are some points I'd have on mine, should I need a checklist.

  1. When giving a handout, slide it off the pegs, and leave it over my chest. Hold until I give the OK.

  2. Do NOT touch the bar, unless I'm actually failing the rep. That is, if the bar stops completely, or starts going back down.

  3. On a failed rep, don't take over. Give me just enough help to get the bar moving upwards again. I can still do it if given the momentum.

  4. Re-rack after a failed/spotted rep, but don't rerack until I've completed the rep, and straightened/locked out.

Might seem weird to give someone all this info when I'm the one asking for help, but like I mentioned earlier, I'd rather just ask someone who has clearly been doing this for at least as long as I have. They know.

  • This guy has been there since before I joined this gym, so I assumed he knew what he was doing (Another lesson learned). This is very similar to what I was going to answer my own question with. – Yousend Jan 26 '17 at 12:49
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    Minor point of contention: I often pause during the push at maximal loads but can 'grind' the rep out slowly. I usually only will take over as the spotter if asked to or if the bar starts descending back down towards their chest. – Gunge Jan 26 '17 at 13:35
  • @JJosaur - I don't see how that's a point of contention. I clearly stated that my list might be different from anyone else's. – Alec Jan 26 '17 at 13:49
  • @akadian I've been a gym-goer for nearly 20 years, 99% training solo. I've never truly spotted someone in that time. As you say now, don't assume. – Chris H Jan 26 '17 at 16:25
  • @ChrisH I figured that barely assisting lift-off and letting the lifter bring it to position (while holding the bar) and not releasing until the lifter is ready was common sense. I guess some people lack common sense, but then again I'm the one who's at fault for trusting people with my life too easily. – Yousend Jan 27 '17 at 19:33
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Unfortunately, you've discovered one of the risks of training alone. And, while Alec's answer may be a start, asking someone who “looks” experienced is no guarantee that you will reduce the risk of injury. For example, let's assume you ask an “experienced” person to spot you. They won't be familiar with your training and what you expect from a spot. Even explaining it to them leaves it open to interpretation. And, then there's the matter of timing. If your spotter's timing does not coincide with what you expect, your chance for injury may rise.

A better approach would be to train with a partner who knows what you expect. While this is still not a perfect solution, having a partner that understands your goals and what you expect from each lift should reduce the risk of injury.

If a partner is not available, there's one more solution that could lower your injury risk. Assuming a bench press lift, I would try using a smith machine since it has inherent spotting capabilities built into the design. And, while the Smith Machine has some disadvantages, one advantage is the ability to perform a lift without a spotter.

  • I figured it was always safer, this is a lesson I've learned the hard way. It's a weight I killed 2 weeks ago, but had to miss a week at the gym so I figured I'd ask for a spot. My gym buddy can only go during peak hours, which means I have to wait 20-30minutes for a rack if I'm lucky so I decided to go earlier since I can. Once I'm back, I might just suffer through the peak hours as I learned just how much safer it is. – Yousend Jan 26 '17 at 15:46
  • Please, for your sake, and that of those who love you, do not use a Smith machine to bench press. If you fail while benching in a Smith machine , then you cannot tilt the (un-clipped... right?) bar to dump the weight and save yourself. – Christian Conti-Vock Jan 26 '17 at 15:49

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